Christophe Boltanski: “I became a writer thanks to my grandmother.”
Family ties.From his paternal grandparents, bruised by the war, Christophe Boltanski, journalist and writer, author of “La Cache”, inherited a keen sense of danger.
“As a child, I lived partly with my grandparents.Rather eccentric, they gave my childhood an unforgettable taste.My grandmother had polio but refused anything that suggested she had polio.She didn’t carry a cane and leaned on her own children; it was a way of holding herself and also of holding us.
My grandfather, a professor of gastroenterology at the hospital, couldn’t stand the sight of blood or losing a patient! He was a silent, emotional man, he ran away from the company of men, while his wife was crazy about it.
In 1942, he had to wear the yellow star.About to be arrested, he faked his escape.He divorced his wife and one night slammed the door of the marital home.He came back in the greatest secrecy, to hide inside the house, in a niche 1.20 m deep, under the parquet floor.Even his last son Luke, my father, didn’t know that his father lived under his feet! He kept a diffuse fear of it, a fear that was transmitted to the whole family.
I don’t even know where they’re buried!
Until his death in the 1980s, people only ventured out of the house in motorized vehicles.In an used Fiat 500, parked in front of the gate, ready to go.On holiday, we drove across Europe in a red Volvo that we never left, not even at night.For my grandmother, the car was her wheelchair, her revenge on her forced immobility.I had to call her “grandmother.” Like the wicked wolf in the fable.Overprotective with an ogressiveness, she didn’t mind scrambling the codes.
The author of some twenty books, she excelled in the literature of reality.She was also a speech therapist.By fighting my dyslexia, she passed on to me her love of writing.
As an adult, I had to adapt to the outside world.I was a reporter for a long time in countries often at war.Perhaps because, for me, the danger began as soon as I crossed the gate in the Rue de Grenelle.Then why not go further?
Nothing remains of my grandparents: no photos or letters.I don’t even know where they’re buried! My uncle Christian told me that The Hide was like a grave, a family vault.Coming from an artist who has often addressed the theme of death, I took it as a compliment.»
A major reporter for Libération and then Le Nouvel Observateur, the author is now editor of Revue XXI.His book La Cache (Folio, Gallimard, 2017 ; $7.70) was awarded the Femina Prize in 2015.